There's Something About Ignatius, part 2
Although many pilgrims had come to Jerusalem that year, many had returned to their own land because of the recent fall of Rhodes. There were thirteen, however, in the pilgrim ship which left first, eight or nine waiting for the Governors’ ship. While it was on the point of sailing, our pilgrim came down with a violent fever. It left him after giving him a few bad days. The ship was to leave the day he had taken a purgative, and the people of the house asked the doctor whether the pilgrim could embark for Jerusalem. He answered that he could, if he wanted to be buried there. He did embark, and left that day, and vomited so much that he felt very light, but began to make a complete recovery. Some on board ship were guilty of manifest indecencies which he severely reproved.
The Spaniards who were along advised him against doing so, because the crew of the ship were thinking of abandoning him on some island. But it was our Lord’s will for them to arrive quickly at Cyprus where, leaving that ship, they proceeded overland to another port which was called Salinas, about thirty miles distant, and there boarded the pilgrim ship, to which he carried no more for his upkeep than the hope he had in God, just as he had done in the first ship. Throughout this time our Lord appeared to him very often, which gave him much strength and consolation; but he thought he saw something that was large and round, as though it were of gold. This kept appearing to him from the time he left Cyprus until they reached Jaffa. While they were making their way to Jerusalem, mounted on their little donkeys, as usual, a noble Spaniard by the name of Diego Manes, two miles before reaching Jerusalem, suggested with great devotion that since they would arrive at a spot from which they could see the Holy City, it would be good for all to prepare their consciences and make the rest of the way in silence.
The suggestion seeming good to all, each one began to recollect himself. Shortly before arriving at the spot from which they could see the city, they dismounted, because the friars, who had been expecting them, came with their cross. As he gazed upon the city, the pilgrim felt a deep consolation, which they all felt, according to their own testimony, together with a joyousness that did not appear natural. He felt the same devotion in his visits to the holy places.
A regular visitor to my blog confided to me recently that up to this point in The Autobiography, she didn’t much care for Ignatius. And in this passage, I think we can see why. People are starting to notice that “the pilgrim” can be a bit of a pain in the ass! Sick, the doctor tells him that if he goes to Jerusalem, he’s likely to die. He goes anyway, vomiting “so much that he felt very light,” and reproving others aboard the ship for their “indecencies.” So annoying was he, that the crew was contemplating leaving him alone on an island somewhere! But, Saint Ignatius assures us, God had other plans.
The nineteenth century American writer, Christian Nestell Bovee, is noted as saying, “Living with a saint is more grueling than being one.” Many of us who live in religious communities know the truth of this saying. Many a religious over the centuries has said, “Oh yes, Father so-and-so is a saint, unless you have to live with him!”
Some years ago, inspired by two weeks working with the poor in Calcutta, I decided that I wanted to spend the following summer also working with the poor in some way. Since I had spent the previous summer studying Spanish, an opportunity that was available to work with poor Hispanic immigrants in the South seemed like a perfect fit. Summer arrived and I went to work with a priest who was well known for all the great work he was doing with the Hispanic community. Indeed, he traveled hundreds of miles each week to different communities around the state to offer Mass, to help people get settled and find work, and to administer the Sacraments, performing baptisms and weddings and hearing confessions. The people in these communities loved him, and he offered them all of himself. He was definitely an inspiration, perhaps even a saint. Yet, as the weeks went by I started to see another side of things. He was overdoing it, a couple of times I saw him fall asleep at the wheel of his car (he had crashed a car months earlier doing the same), and while loved by the people he ministered to, his focus on them made it difficult for others to help him, often leaving them angry and bitter. I also experienced this frustration. I soon realized he hadn’t really thought out how he was going to make use of me. Much of my time was spent waiting for a call telling me what to do next. Sometimes those calls came at midnight! I begged him to sit down with me and come up with some kind of schedule, as I couldn’t healthily follow the haphazard pattern which he did. He kept assuring me he would, but never found the time. There were always other things more important, more pressing. I was also frustrated because when he did call with something for me to do, it was more often “gopher” type jobs than the ministry opportunities I had been promised. After some desperate e-mails to my superior back home, and some research into alternative possibilities for work, I sat him down and told him that I couldn’t continue working with him in this impossible situation. I assured him—and I was sincere—that it had nothing to do with how I felt about him. Indeed, I liked and admired him, but I just couldn’t work with him. I spent the remaining weeks of my summer doing Hispanic ministry with someone less “saintly,” but in a much more structured and sane environment.
Yes, there is definitely something inspiring about saintly people, but they can also be maddening!